The Hotbin Composter, a midway review

Compost, compost, compost. It’s really useful stuff and coming up to the big spring planting we are going to need a lot of it. So the perfect time to give you another chance to peek into our experience of the hotbin composter.

We did a small update a few weeks ago to give you some basics of how we were finding it, but now we’ve passed the 3-month mark, I thought it was high time that we gave you a proper update and if you will, midway review.

So let’s be honest, the big question you all want answered is, did it make compost in 3-months like it promised, but if I answer that now where’s the motivation to stick with us and read the rest of the blog post? 🙂

Firstly, I think these types of reviews on average gardeners’ blogs and YouTube channels are important, most of us go online and do a bit of research before buying something and its seriously important that the information you find is truthful and not a sales pitch. So I really wanted to make sure I gave this composter a good run before giving you guys any feedback. After all, loads of you crazy people went online and bought lunch boxes after my last review so now I feel the pressure to not give you any bum steers or lead you astray!

Size and beauty

For those of us with small or smallish urban gardens, size and space is a big deal. We don’t have the space to have multiple compost bins or massive set-ups where we can’t be turning compost from bin to bin so something compact and fast acting sounds perfect. Also, if you have a smaller garden, any garden gizmos are going to be on show all the time so you don’t want ugly!

This leads me nicely a bit of a whinge I have about the look of the bin. If you checked out the previous blog post, you’ll see that we have switched out those crazy, bright green straps for black. They were driving me insane, this bright green glow from the bottom of the garden catching my eye while I was trying to concentrate on The Great British Pottery throw Down. They had to go and we now have nice sensible black ones. A minor thing, but for me, super annoying. There I said it, can we move on now?

Size wise, it’s a really great footprint for the garden, doesn’t take up too much room at all, about the size of a wheelie bin. However, it’s tall like a wheelie bin and I am not which means I struggle to reach into it to mix the composting material. 🙁 I’ve had to put a step out to use, most embarrassing.

It’s a hungry beastie

The material that came with it did recommend feeding it at least 2 caddies of kitchen waste a week (they are about 5 litres) to keep it going and build the heat. Unfortunately, through trying to get this composter running, we’ve realised that we don’t have nearly that amount of waste each week, and what we do have is almost all tea leaves or coffee grinds so it’s really wet. We are also a paperless household, so didn’t manage the recommended paper additions to keep the moisture level right. We’ve had to go on a scrounge to get more paper which I am now adding religiously. I’ve taken to stealing newspapers from work (when they have been read to top up our supply).

The lack of waste material and paper leads me on nicely to the early experience we had with this bin. To get it up and running, the manufacturers recommend half filling it with stuff from your old compost bin when you set it up. Ahhhhhhhhh, fist problem, I didn’t have any so had to completely start from scratch, the bin isn’t even half full yet, 3-months on.

So does it hit the hot spot as claimed?

Well, we haven’t managed it yet, given all the issues we’ve had (lack of waste etc) I’m not surprised. We’ve seen it go to 30C in the middle of winter so it’s definitely doing its thing, and it’s usually at about 20C but we are having a few issues with getting the mix right and I suspect until we get that sorted, we are not going to see the temperature climb much higher.

 

You do notice the heat, though, there were a couple of times when I opened the bin on a cold day and my glasses steamed up, so it’s definitely doing its thing. I think it’s just us who are not feeding it enough to generate the kind of heat we are hoping for.

That actually leads me on nicely, I decided that since you would all be dying to know about the actual compost after 3-months, that I’d open it up and take a look. I absolutely wasn’t expecting anything exciting, after all, we haven’t managed to stick to all the instructions, however, surprisingly there was a compost, well of sorts, formed in the bottom of the bin. I was quite surprised. It’s not lovely rich potting compost and it’s not ready for use yet. It’s sopping wet and squidgy and OMG it stinks but it is not recognisable at all as the stuff we had been putting in there, so the process does seem to be underway. It has helped, though, the fact that it is so absolutely sopping wet has really shown us how important it is to get that balance right with the paper. Also, again because it’s so wet and heavy, it was really compacted, so I doubt there has been any air circulating to help it do its thing. This was all a really good lesson for me.

I raked all that goo out and returned it to the top of the bin with loads of shredded paper and wood chips and gave it all a good mix. I’m hoping this will help kick things into action again. Also, we are just starting on the garden so before long there will be grass cuttings etc to feed it – hooray!

So what’s the verdict?

Well, to be honest, regardless of the issues we’ve had and the fact that it’s not churning away at 60C producing compost in 3-months, I’m happy. I’m happy to accept that it is showing signs of being as advertised but it will take some effort from us to get the balance sorted out. It’s neat and tidy, easier to work with than my old manual pile and I can definitely see signs of progress. So far so good, but will keep you all up to date and hopefully in a few months, will be showing off our compost!

 

 

 

 

 

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